It’s week four of sheltering-in-place. The days have long since blurred together. I’ve learned to deduce the time of day based on the contents of the cup I am slowly sipping from. The fact that it still holds coffee suggests it’s not the afternoon. Can having a “few” drinks to pass the time be considered “deviant” behavior? Possibly? Do I feel those pangs of shame that my criminology professors said would accompany breaking social norms? Not really. Perhaps I should since April is National Alcohol Awareness month which seeks to bring attention to unsafe or unhealthy drinking habits. However, it is not too unusual to use alcohol to cope with stressful and uncertain circumstances—for example, a pandemic.
This week in the news: Missouri’s new Supreme Court chief justice says our public defender system needs to be sufficiently funded and staffed for the system to work; bail reform in New York; a look at problem-solving and veterans treatment courts; and more.
Public defenders are heroes. That message rang loud and clear throughout the third annual Smart on Crime Innovations Conference. From opening remarks by John Jay College of Criminal Justice President Karol Mason who explicitly highlighted defenders as criminal justice reform leaders to the plenary session on day two when Mark Holden and Justice Programs Office Director Kim Ball had a passionate conversation about why the Sixth Amendment matters.
In 2014, Tracey Jones celebrated ten years working at the same daycare center. There is no question that Tracey is meant to work with children. Walk down Courtlandt Avenue with her, and you will hear kids yelling, “Hi, Miss Tracey!” When she hears the greeting, she stops what she’s doing and opens her arms. She scoops them up, remembers their names, the last time she babysat them, and in a few cases, the last time she babysat their parents.
It’s finally spring and April – a month our criminal justice community has dedicated as Second Chance Month. At JPO, we join our community in bringing attention to the importance of second chances and the need to ensure that those impacted by the criminal justice system gain opportunities to restore their voting rights, find employment, get a driver’s license, have their record(s) expunged, and more. Continue reading “Spring is a Time for Renewal and for Second Chances”
What’s celebrated in March? In addition to St. Patrick’s Day, Women’s History Month, and National Criminal Justice Month, we also celebrate Social Work Month. In honor of the many contributions social work has made to treatment courts, I decided to highlight a person whose work is beneficial to the practices and procedures of treatment courts. Dr. Anne Dannerbeck Janku is an associate research professor at the University of Missouri. For almost two decades, she has conducted research on racial and ethnic disparities in treatment courts. Continue reading “A Social Work Professor Serves the Court”
Michelle Alexander wrote in The New Jim Crow: “The fate of millions of people—indeed the future of the black community itself—may depend on the willingness of those who care about racial justice to re-examine their basic assumptions about the role of the criminal justice system in our society.”
February is Black History Month. It’s a time for everyone to reflect on the legacy of progress that black leaders have left throughout history in the fight for liberation, equitable treatment, and empowerment. It is also a time for white allies to examine what they could be doing better to interrupt their own racism and that of others, what it means to support black leadership, and how our nation’s policies continue to oppress black lives. And indeed, it is a time for white allies to heed Alexander’s call to re-examine the role of the criminal legal system in society.
The truth of the common quip “all politics is local” has seemingly eroded in the last several years. The modern method of consuming news means our collective attention is squarely aimed at the actors we can all recognize or the systems which we are all familiar. We are less informed and less engaged in the issues in our own community. But whether or not the public is engaged, the American political system hinges on decentralized power spread over millions of jurisdictions. This is especially true of the criminal justice system. Despite what is taught in high school civics classes, the justice system is not a single body or multiple bodies under a clear hagiarchy. Police, prisons, jails, public defenders, prosecutors, the judiciary, and the various ancillary services all operate independently with virtually no meaningful oversight or coordinated direction from a higher body. Each, however, can affect what justice looks likes in a community. Continue reading “The role of local institutions in the criminal justice reform debate”